Tour de campus

Trying out ReCycles, the University's (relatively) new bike-share program.

Tour%20de%20campus.jpgA place where even professor emeritus David Bevington can be seen kickstarting his bike at a trot, the U of C isn't exactly hospitable for cyclophobes. Sadly for them, but happily for those of us who neither fear bikes nor own one, the University's bike-share program recently lost its training wheels, and it's doing well.

The ReCycles program, started last fall under the auspices of the Office of Sustainability, offers registered students, faculty, and staff free bike rentals at any of four campus locations: the Reg, Ratner, School of Social Service Administration, and the NSIT building on 60th and Kenwood.

As of this spring, when the program moved past its pilot phase, there are 22 bikes, 750 people registered, and 100 rentals a week, according to Colleen Christensen, a sustainability program coordinator. "We didn't necessarily know what to expect since it was a brand new program, but it expanded quite rapidly," she said in a phone interview, thinking about the past, present, and future of ReCycles. "It's a matter of knowing how best to expand the program."

I happen to be one of those 750 registered part-time cyclists and I've rented bikes quite a lot, a total of 10 times according to Christensen, who was nice enough to go through the records. After two years humping it around Hyde Park, seeing the neighborhood from the back of a lean, mean, cycling machine made everyday travel feel adventure! (Mostly because I was constantly afraid of being hit by a car, but still.)

Why do I use it? Well, speaking from lots of experience, ReCycles is great if you live off campus and need to get home to print out a paper (or finish the paper, or...start the paper) and get back in a hurry. No longer speaking from experience, but from informed guess, it's even better if you're craving some fresh produce in your dorm room and you've got an hour to kill in the middle of the day. It's also great if you're concerned that it be a step in the green direction.

The program's big issue is that if you're bikeless and living off campus—rather far from one of the program's four pick-up locations—you're in for at least two long walks. Not the end of the world, but it can defeat the purpose of renting the bike in the first place. This is, by the way, the same problem likely to plague the City of Chicago's soon-to-be-rolled-out bike-share program.

So what if you have to be on campus already to rent the bikes, and then return them by 7 p.m. or so? Campus is a beautiful, engrossing place, but sometimes it feels good when you're just Breaking Away.

With that in mind, here's an illustrated list of biking ideas, collected from my latest sojourn around Hyde Park:

Asher Klein, '11

Photography by Asher Klein, '11.

July 7, 2010